Making international customer happy is business as usual
April 19, 2011
Careful planning and ensuring a happy customer is the way two Security Assistance Command employees approach their role in foreign military sales.
Bonnie McCracken, a financial management specialist, and Cassie Paley, the senior central case manager for Saudi Arabia, recently received certificates of appreciation from the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Interior for their "exceptional customer service and financial management of the Office of Program Management-Facility Security Forces first-year support case valued at over $6.8 million."
But for both McCracken and Paley, it was business as usual. "If you are not pleasing the customer, within the rules and regulations, you\'re not doing your job," McCracken said.
Their support for the Saudi's Facility Security Forces involved "standing up" their military training program, which falls under the Army's FMS program. Under the one case, more than 99 Military Interdepartmental Purchase Requests were needed to fund the Personnel Force Innovation deployments for fiscal years 2009-11. "When the case implemented and funding was made available, it was our job to execute the needs of PFI program in a timely manner," Paley said. McCracken and Paley both work at USASAC's New Cumberland office which performs the execution portion for FMS cases.
"Working in a timely manner and accessing the customer's needs within the given budget can be difficult when personnel are awaiting deployments to support in-country assistance such as training," Paley explained.
"However, there may be discrepancies between the records kept at the PFI program and USASAC. If a country has a discrepancy, we have to fix it," Paley added. Because of the relative newness of some programs such as the Saudi's PFI, there is also a learning curve. "It is a matter of getting them on the right track," she added. "Budgeting can be difficult."
When PFI records were reflecting a different amount available than USASAC records indicated, Paley, McCracken and their team started searching for the reason. The difference in availability could mean an additional deployment. Upon research, several issues were found, including personnel who had not traveled. Therefore funds could be returned back to the case. A spreadsheet was then developed to keep PFI and USASAC on track with the MIPRs that had been issued and funded to date. This mechanism was able to resolve any ongoing issues and deplete the funding available.
Constant communication with the customer is the key to success, according to Paley. She is in contact with the Saudis or Military Personnel as many as 10-15 times a day. "The customer always appreciates being notified of the ongoings of the program," she added.
In addition to helping international customers get what they need in a timely manner, McCracken, whose financial management support is not limited to one region, also cites the variety of getting to work with so many countries as part of the satisfaction she gets from her job at USASAC.
Both McCracken and Paley are more recent additions to the USASAC work force. McCracken, an Army veteran, joined USASAC less than three years ago. Paley has eight years with USASAC and began with the Student Cooperative Employment Program. Paley credits her success in the job to "training in various areas with knowledgeable people willing to share information and always asking questions."
McCracken also credited the USASAC work force with helping her learn a new aspect of the financial management system. "People here are great... they welcomed me like a family member."
McCracken and Paley are also in agreement about FMS challenges in the future due to a heavy workload. "The Personnel Forces Integration is really starting to take off. There are several cases ready to implement and we need to be ready to answer the customers' concerns and questions regarding their program," Paley said.
But the far-reaching impact of FMS can't be underestimated, according to McCracken, Paley and most importantly, the customer who stated: "Your guidance and expertise enabled this new FMS program to establish a strong and enduring partnership with the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Interior and Facilities Security Forces." Strength through cooperation - that's the USASAC motto.